Was Canada’s Open Government Delay Part of the Plan?

The Canadian government’s open government initiative was back in the spotlight this week with Treasury Board President Tony Clement discussing the issue at a speech in Ottawa. I wrote about the open government in my weekly technology law column (homepage version, Toronto Star version) noting that seven months later the initiative is gathering dust. As of Monday, the original website – online at – still featured a photo of Day, who retired from politics just one week after the initial announcement. The site had been last updated on March 18, 2011, the same date as the policy announcement. The site was updated over the past couple of days.

While some delays due to the election call were understandable, seven months of inaction led skeptics to wonder whether the entire announcement was little more than a publicity stunt.  The delays are particularly discouraging given Canada’s willingness to pressure others about the value of open government. Last month, Canada became one of 46 countries to join the Open Government Partnership, which is focused on the availability of information about governmental activities, supporting civic participation, and increasing access to new technologies for openness and accountability. A letter from Foreign Minister John Baird to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirming Canada’s participation noted the June Speech from the Throne that reaffirmed support for open data, open information, and open dialogue.

Yet unlike many other countries which delivered on open government commitments, the Canadian letter was merely a letter of intent, with the expectation of delivering on the commitments in March 2012, one year after the open government initiative was first announced. Clement now says that this was part of the plan. His speech states:

As announced last March, starting in 2012, all departments and agencies subject to the Access to Information Act will be required to post summaries of completed information requests on their websites.

However, the Open Government website posting from the event states:

Starting April 1, 2011, all departments and agencies will work diligently to proactively release summaries of completed access to information requests.

The difference may be in the language (work diligently vs. required), but regardless it is hoped that Clement’s reaffirmation of the open government plans will put the issue back on track.


  1. > Starting April 1, 2011, all departments and agencies will work diligently to proactively release summaries of completed access to information requests.

    This is all an elaborate prank.

  2. Considering…
    the Harper Government(tm) has been the most opaque and inscutable in Canadian history, it’s not surprising that they would do something like that. Now when they’re accused of having a closed, secretive government, they can point to the Open Government website and smile.

  3. Clement having a speech on transparent, open government.

    Irony, et tu Mr. Wikileak’d?

  4. It is open government
    The conservatives are completely open to everyone agreeing with them. If you disagree with them then you are ‘one of those’ type of people. Presumably ‘one of those’ means dark and suspicious but seems to include anyone who doesn’t want their rights trampled.

  5. Wha???
    I am not sure that even Tony Clement believes the things he says. Either way it is a depressing prospect.